Surface Interview: Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Oliver Jackson-Cohen Talk On-Set Chemistry

A nail-biting thriller hit Apple TV+ this week.

On July 29, the streaming service released the first three episodes of Surface. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are portraying Sophie and James, a couple of protagonists whose life is a dense network of mysteries. Ahead of the series’ official release, Mbatha-Raw and Jackson-Cohen sat down with ComingSoon to discuss their latest project.

“Set in high-end San Francisco, Sophie, a woman who has suffered a traumatic head injury that has left her with extreme memory loss, believed to be a result of a suicide attempt,” reads the synopsis. “As Sophie embarks on a quest to put the pieces of her life back together with the help of her husband and friends, she begins to question whether or not the truth she is told is in fact the truth she has lived.”

You can check the full interview here below.

The only thing sure in the series is that nothing is like it appears at first. Gugu, how did you approach Sophie’s constant search for her real identity?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: It was really interesting because it’s the first time I’ve ever played a character that genuinely doesn’t know anything about themselves. Normally, when you are building a character as an actor, you create a backstory, you create all of these things to flesh out your character, but really, Sophie’s is a blank slate. That was really fun for me because she’s sort of looking to everyone around her husband, James played by Oliver, to fill in all the gaps for her. Obviously, as the season progresses, she gets more information from the outside world and from her friends and people that she doesn’t really know. But yeah, it was a great challenge, I think. As we get to the end of the series, obviously she goes on this massive journey, and really, is so much more empowered. So yeah, it was really satisfying.

Oliver, do you believe people can assume different identities throughout their lives?

Oliver Jackson-Cohen: Well, I think we do. I think we’re constantly sort of evolving and not that we become different people, but it’s very, hopefully, we are all sort of striving to be better sort of humans or, or whatever it is. With James, in our show, it becomes more about what is it that he’s holding onto and what is he hiding and why is he hiding, and what costs that to the marriage? What costs that to him? That was the kind of fun part to play with. I don’t think he necessarily changes as a human being, but I think that it’s, it becomes about what information unfolds or uncovers in every episode that changes people’s perspective of him and them and every character. Like you said, I think that it’s the sort of show that nothing is ever what it seems, when you think you know one thing, it gets suddenly switched, and something else comes at you. It’s deliciously stressful.

I was just curious to know how did you build your husband-wife chemistry as Sophie and James? Did you hang out much on set?

Mbatha-Raw: I mean, it’s not hard. Oliver’s such a brilliant actor and so warm and incredibly generous. We knew each other in the past, we’ve had mutual friends, so there was already a shorthand there. Two Brits, there was a cultural understanding, but I think it also, it was all in the writing. I have to say, you know, Veronica [West] wrote this incredibly dynamic relationship. There’s so much tension under the surface. And working with Sam Miller, I feel like we really collaborated together as a team. When you’re working with great artists and people that really care about the material, it makes everything so much easier.


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